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The Best College Towns in Colorado

Colorado is the very definition of “live, work, play.” Nowhere do they do those three things better than in the state’s many college towns. Residents love the outdoorsy options found all over The Centennial State. But they appreciate the higher learning opportunities every bit as much. Consider the incredible views and booming economy and it’s not hard to understand why so many people call Colorado home.

Don’t let the “college town” label scare you if you’re not in school. Colorado college towns are proud of their educational offerings but aren’t university-centric. In fact, many of these towns are ideal places to raise families, pursue careers or even retire! Let’s mosey on through this list to learn more about some of Colorado’s best college town options, from small and quaint to big and bustling.


Boulder, CO

The University of Colorado-Boulder is less than a 30-minute drive from the state capital city of Denver. It’s a location no-brainer! The school has about 33,000 students at any given time, while Boulder boasts a population of 108,250. Found in the northern part of the state, UC Boulder isn’t only a collection of classrooms. It also has an on-site planetarium and natural history museum!

Students and locals mix and mingle in this Colorado college town’s adorable downtown area. Known as Pearl Street Mall, this gem has everything from breweries, bars and pizza joints to high-end fine dining. It also features a similar range of shopping opportunities, as well as art galleries. Boulder is best known for its festival scene, like the Boulder International Film Festival.


Gunnison, CO

The city of Gunnison hosts Western Colorado University. Smack in the middle of the picturesque Rocky Mountains, this campus is on the smaller side, with only 2,900 students. With just over 6,500 total city population, the students are a significant proportion. As a result, the surrounding community treats these young adults much like their very own. Engineering is one focus of the school. It offers excellent computer science and liberal arts majors, as well.

Originally inhabited by the Ute Indians, Gunnison is 115 miles west of Colorado Springs. Coloradans who long for a smaller town vibe prefer Gunnison to some of the more populous cities on our list. They still wouldn’t suffer for things to do, especially in the great outdoors. The valley town is on the edge of Gunnison National Forest and is near the world-renowned Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The Tomichi Creek State Wildlife Area, Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and Museum and a small airport are also in Gunnison.

Fort Collins

Fort Collins, CO

Way on the other end of the spectrum is Fort Collins, known for the much larger Colorado State University. The northern Colorado city itself hosts nearly 170,000 residents, with more than 33,000 students. CSU offers majors of all types to its students. It’s a renowned research university in the areas of infectious diseases, environmental science and clean energy.

Yet another Colorado college town at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins is one of the country’s main brewery hubs. Families love Fossil Creek State Park, with its lakes, trails, skate park and dog parks. There’s even a playground done in a kid-friendly prehistoric theme! Other local attractions include the 12-acre Gardens on Spring Creek, which has hundreds of butterfly species. The Fort Collins Museum of Art adds culture to the area


Durango, CO

The southern Colorado city of Durango hosts Fort Lewis College, a four-year, public school. A super short jaunt to the New Mexico border, Durango’s location is ideal for people interested in seeing as many Western states as possible.

Sandwiched between the Southern Ute Reservation and the San Juan National Forest, Durango has almost 20,000 residents — 3,300 of which are Fort Lewis College students. Archeology buffs thrive in Durango, which features Puebloan structures estimated at 1,000 years old. There are also centuries-old Spanish colonial missions. Durango attracts tourists who want to see the sites, ski its three resorts and enjoy the area’s 300-plus miles’ worth of trails.


Pueblo, CO

About 100 miles south (45-minute drive) of Denver is the Colorado college town of Pueblo, site of Colorado State University-Pueblo. One of the more cost-efficient places to live in Colorado, Pueblo has around 112,000 residents, with 4,000 students. Some of those students are working adults and military personnel. The school prides itself on small class sizes, with an average of only 16 students per class.

Pueblo is a culturally and ethnically diverse community. Although the 275-acre campus is impressive, there’s plenty more to do in Pueblo. Like pretty much anywhere in Colorado, the area has state park access in the form of Lake Pueblo State Park. The Pueblo Zoo is a great place to take the kiddos, plus it also hosts concerts! Possibly the most beloved part of Pueblo is City Park. This gem features lakes, picnic areas, walking trails and a historic merry-go-round.


Denver, CO

A city the size of Denver has more than one higher education opportunity. The most well-known is probably the University of Colorado-Denver. The students are in the minority, population-wise, at less than 20,000 of the total 700,000-plus population. But they’re a big part of the city’s culture, nonetheless.

Denver has everything a person should expect from a large city. This includes an international airport, tons of jobs, culture for days and so on. It has an adorable and walkable downtown, liberally sprinkled with shopping and dining. The city also has six professional sports teams, 90 golf courses, a professional rodeo and horse racing facilities to keep locals entertained. So, no matter what athletic endeavor you want to cheer for, you’re set.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs, CO

Not too far from the world-famous Pike’s Peak is the Colorado college town of Colorado Springs. Almost right in the center of the state, the unique community of Colorado Springs has more than one school in its bounds. These include the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Colorado College and Colorado Technical University. The U.S. Air Force Academy is also found in Colorado Springs.

Although not as large as Denver, Colorado Springs is still a pretty big “college town,” so to speak. There’s a ton to do there, including the free Garden of the Gods Park, Cave of the Winds Mountain Park and The Broadmoor Seven Falls. The area is also historically rich! Stop by the Cheyenne Mountain Heritage Center, the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Peterson Air and Space Museum and the American Numismatic Association Money Museum.


Golden, CO

The Denver suburb of Golden isn’t as well known as some of the state’s other cities. That didn’t keep the home of Colorado School of Mines from landing on the list of the best college towns in America, however! The school’s curriculum focuses on science and engineering. It’s also a tough public school to get into. In fact, many thousands of prospective students vie each year to enroll.

Golden is a great spot for non-students, too. Its proximity to Denver makes it more convenient and affordable for commuters. Residents love Golden’s festivals, art galleries and 24 miles’ worth of interconnected trails. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater in Golden is one of the best concert venues in the country, if not the world.


Aurora, CO

The Colorado college town of Aurora is east of Denver. Some of its colleges include Community College of Aurora, Ecotech Institute and American Sentinel University. With about 386,000 residents, there’s plenty for non-students to enjoy about Aurora.

Dubbed the “Most Active City in America,” Aurora boasts more than 100 parks. The warmer months see tons of activity on the Aurora Reservoir, thanks to people sailing and kayaking the pristine waters. Joggers, cyclists and dog walkers are virtually everywhere, as well. Aurora’s Cultural Arts District is fit for an even larger metropolis, with an orchestra and a theater. Plus, its proximity to Denver makes it perfect for commuting professionals who want to live near the action, but not right in the thick of it.

Grand Junction

Grand Junction, CO

Way over in the westernmost part of Colorado is the picturesque city of Grand Junction. Almost within spitting distance to Utah, this Colorado college town is where Colorado Mesa University is. With 11,000 students total, the college makes up a good chunk of the city’s nearly 66,000 residents.

One of the less expensive places to live in a pretty pricey state, Grand Junction is popular with young professionals looking to save some cash. The name comes from the fact that the city is on the junction of two major rivers — the Colorado River and the Gunnison River. The area is rich in Native American history, as it was originally inhabited by the Fremont and Ute tribes.

Today, Grand Junction is lovingly referred to as “Colorado’s Wine Country,” due to a booming industry with more than 20 wineries. Outdoorsy types visit Colorado National Monument and the flat-top mountain called Grand Mesa. Skiing, hiking, fishing, cycling and rock-climbing keep locals busy day in and day out.

Consider Colorado college towns

Whether it’s a small college-centric town or a big city with multiple universities therein, Colorado’s college towns have plenty to offer all types of residents. A little school spirit never hurts, right?


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